What “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”​ Taught Me

What “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”​ Taught Me


After returning from my semester abroad in Australia, I made it a habit to read 2 novels every month, at the minimum. From finishing greats such as Principles by Ray Dalio, to The Lessons of History by Will Durant, I just completed the superb 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. With concepts revolving around individual and group mentality and behavior, this short article aims to convey what I learned through Covey’s teachings.

Everything orients around “Paradigms”

Paradigms are the ways an individual perceives and comprehends the world around them. This can be a theory, model or frame of reference. Personal paradigms are essentially the “source of our attitudes and behavior”, and if change of attitude and/or behavior is the goal, success will not be achieved unless personal paradigms are altered and in tune with reality.

Habits & The Maturity Continuum

One’s character is a “composite of habits” and habits are ultimately the intersection of Knowledge, Skill and Desire.

  • Knowledge is the paradigm; the What and Why?
  • Skill is the How to
  • Desire is the Want to

Covey sets his 7 habits to be in a hierarchical order based on maturity level. There are 3 overarching levels going from lowest to highest maturity.

  1. Dependence: Paradigm of “YOU”
  2. Independence: Paradigm of “I”
  3. Interdependence: Paradigm of “WE”

Interdependence is the ultimate goal in life but individuals MUST complete the prior level in order to progress forward.

Be Proactive, Not Reactive

Reactive individuals let life happen to them; they sit in the backseat while life drives them through. They allow their happiness and success be determined by outside influences and in turn, have an External locus of control. They are driven by feelings and emotionally react to negative situations.

Conversely, proactives take responsibility for their life. They take initiative, they choose to be happy and subordinate feelings to values. While a reactive might speak with “There’s nothing I can do, it’s useless”, a proactive will say “Lets see what we CAN do; let’s check the alternatives”. They make and keep commitments to themselves and to others as well blaming ONLY themselves for direct actions.

Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things

“Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.”

-Peter Drucker

Leadership is the precursor to management, and is focused on thinking with the end in mind first. “What do I want to achieve?” and “What is my ultimate vision?” are questions that dwell in leaders. How would one know how to manage themselves on a day to day basis if they have no idea as to where they are going? A good way of “leading” yourself is through a Personal Mission Statement, where one records their values and what they wish to do in life. Once complete, a person has something to grade and hold themselves accountable on.

While leadership is generally right-brained functionality, management is generally left. It focuses on implementation and execution. It is the micro based process to lead you to reach your macro goals.

Relationships are built on “Emotional Bank Accounts”

Just as a financial bank account functions on the basics of deposits and withdrawals, a relationship works the same. Positive interactions such as being kind, committing appreciable actions, or simply listening, make deposits. Conversely, negative interactions such as not caring, being rude and not spending effort, make withdrawals. For a relationship to last, let alone work, there needs to be a higher ratio of deposits to withdrawals. Relationships with more withdrawals lack intimacy, understanding and most importantly, trust.

First Listen, Then Speak

Communication is one of the most important skills to have, yet most individuals do not know how it works properly. Most love to speak, but never listen; and those who do, do it inefficiently. They engage in what is known as either ignoring or selective listening. Furthermore, most humans communicate, as Covey put it, ‘autobiographically’, where they project their own experiences onto another person. This is selfish, leads to withdrawals out of the emotional bank account, and fundamentally leads to misunderstanding. Great communicators must be empathic listeners; they do not focus on their turn to speak, but focus on understanding what the other person is trying to convey and where they come from. It puts the focus and respect on the speaker and gives them “psychological air” which is an understanding and acceptance from another.

Unity & Synergy is the Ultimate Goal

Most believe the ultimate goal is personal maximization and efficiency, but there is something greater than this achievement; synergy and interdependence. Synergy is defined as “the whole being greater than the sum of the parts”. 1 + 1 does not equal 2; it equals 3,10, or even 1 million. Synergy is everywhere around us; the world and ecology itself revolves around synergy and interdependence. We as humans are meant to work together for the better. Without interdependence, there would be no global trade. There would be no cross culture spread of arts, history, entertainment and perspective. However, before synergy can be achieved, there must be 3 aspects at play:

  1. Trust
  2. Cooperation
  3. Intrapersonal synergy, or unity with oneself

Life is About Renewal & Consistent Growth

Life works on iterations of consistent failing, learning and growing. Humans go through a process of continuous improvement and an upward spiral of change and growth. The way this is achieved is through nursing 4 areas, or ‘needs’ of yourself.

  1. Physical: Physical body focus; exercise, nutrition and sleep. Brings self-esteem and self-confidence
  2. Spiritual: Provides leadership to one’s life; religion or independent practices of faith, and meditation. Brings inner peace and control
  3. Mental: Continued education outside of school; expands mind and perspectives
  4. Social/Emotional: Interpersonal relationships; helps build personal security and source of inner fulfillment

Must be worked on in a disciplined manner and attention should be divided equally across all 4 dimensions.

I highly recommend this novel to every single individual, regardless of your goals or where you are in life.

This article was originally crafted and posted on my LinkedIn account, which can be viewed here.

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    Brett Ethier

    Hello! thegreekphysique.com site is very useful and inspirational, and
    I do not think I arrived without a reason. That’s why
    I want to help others share a book that has helped me a lot
    in my life: https://bit.ly/3bZQVAC


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